Goal-shy Philadelphia look to "Jack Mac" against Crew

Jack McInerney

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CHESTER, Pa. – Forwards Federico Higuaín and Jairo Arrieta are blazing hot for the Columbus Crew, having combined to score five goals over the past two games.

The Philadelphia Union, by contrast, have not gotten a goal from any of their strikers since July.

But that’s something they believe will change tonight when they host Higuaín, Arrieta and the rest of the surging Crew in a pivotal Eastern Conference matchup at PPL Park (8 pm ET, MLS Live).

“We’re had more than a few good chances,” said Danny Cruz, who’s been playing up top for Philly since coming over from D.C. United in a trade two weeks ago. “It’s just about working on finishing. It’ll come. It’s going to come.”

Cruz said he watched last Friday’s scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake in its entirety three times. And each time, he became more and more impressed with how well the Union played. But it was also painful to watch the replay of his squandered opportunity to score late in the first half – which, in many ways, was a microcosm of the game.

“The thing is, the chances are there,” Cruz said. “It would be one thing if the chances aren’t there. … Forwards have ups and downs. They go on streaks. They go cold. We’re just looking to continue to play positive and get opportunities, because anyone will you tell that the more opportunities you have, the more they’ll fall.”

Hackworth reiterated Cruz’s comments that the team has been able to create scoring opportunities, even saying they’ve been unlucky at times not to put the ball into the back of the net.

But with just two goals in their past four games – one of which was an own goal – the Union manager also knows the execution around the net has to be much better. And for that, they must rely on point man Jack McInerney, probably the team’s best natural goalscorer.

“He’s the guy we have to lean on the most right now,” Hackworth said. “He knows that. But goalscoring is funny because it comes in waves sometimes. He’s doing so many good things for us. He’s creating chances for other players. We really need to try to create a few more for Jack, because he’s probably the best one at pure execution.”

McInerney is currently second on the team with four goals and has been one of the few players to consistently start up top under Hackworth. Another one of the team’s strikers, Jorge Perlaza, had his contract terminated Tuesday after failing to break into the mix following the trade that brought him from Portland to Philly in exchange for Danny Mwanga.

“That might be one criticism of us attacking-wise. I don’t think we’ve found Jack Mac enough,” Hackworth said. “He continually makes really smart runs and we haven’t found him or we’ve been late in trying to find him on too many occasions. We’ll try to rectify that [Wednesday] and see if it that makes a difference.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.